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A flexible power supply for flexible electronics

13 April 2015

A research team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a hyper-stretchable elastic-composite energy harvesting device.

The hyper-stretchable elastic-composite generator (SEG) energy harvester stretched by human hands over 200 percent strain (courtesy of KAIST)

Flexible electronics are enabling new technologies like flexible displays and wearable electronics like biomedical devices and electronic skins (e-skins) which must stretch to conform to arbitrarily curved surfaces and moving body parts. They must also be able to withstand the repeated and prolonged mechanical stresses of stretching.

However, the development of elastic energy generating devices is regarded as critical to establishing power supplies in stretchable applications.

While researchers have explored a variety of stretchable electronics, the lack of appropriate device structures and electrodes, they have been unable to develop fully-reversible energy conversion devices.

Researchers from KAIST and Seoul National University (SNU) have recently demonstrated a high-performance and hyper-stretchable elastic-composite generator (SEG) using very long silver nanowire-based stretchable electrodes.

Schematics of hyper-stretchable elastic-composite generator (SEG) enabled by very long silver nanowire-based stretchable electrodes (courtesy of KAIST)

Their stretchable piezoelectric generator can harvest mechanical energy to produce high power output (~4V) with significant elongation (~250 percent) and excellent durability (over 104 cycles). This is largely due to the performance of the electrodes, which can be stretched and relaxed many times without damage.

The new SEG can be applied to a wide-variety of wearable energy-harvesters to convert biomechanical stretching energy from the body (or a machine) into useful electrical energy.

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